After sleeping in to a luxurious 8:30 AM, I enjoyed the “free” breakfast included with my $49 room at the Grosvenor Best Western Hotel, just north of the San Francisco airport, compliments of United Airlines.
While it’s convenient to knock the airlines and draw broad assumptions based on a particular incident or airline employee, my perception is that airline travel has been largely commoditized. In other words, the logo on the tail, the color scheme of the interiors and the uniforms of the flight attendants are about the only distinction these days. Let’s face it, competition for seats has turned most airlines into upscale buses. In fact, many airlines fly aircraft manufactured by a European company called Airbus.
Once again, I was reminded that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Since I was still on the ground and not over the Pacific somewhere, I was able to answer some emails, solve some problems and do some writing. Then, my brother picked me up for an afternoon at the beach. Little did I know that more airline problems were still ahead.
The new routing through Honolulu had me departing San Francisco at 7:05 PM, and after a two-hour layover, connecting with Air New Zealand going directly into Auckland, arriving at 6:30 AM in time to host the Conversation Debrief at 8:00 AM. No problem. So, Richard and I spent the afternoon in Half Moon Bay, eating deli sandwiches on the beach and catching up. Dropping me off at 4:30 PM was to give me plenty of time to shop at the San Francisco airport bookstore (one of my favorites) and maybe even use the meal voucher that United had provided last night.
After waiting my turn to check in I was told that the flight to Honolulu on which I was booked was delayed. In fact, so delayed that if I didn’t catch the very next flight to Honolulu that was currently boarding at Gate 84, I would once again misconnect. But this time in the middle of the Pacific.
After sizing up the four security lines that stood between me and Gate 84, I chose line number three. With only five waiting, it was the shortest line. But how was I to know that two neophyte fliers ahead of me would be trying to smuggle more than 3.4 ounces of toothpaste in their carry on, and another who had an issue with authority, making a fuss in the glass enclosure reserved for hand screening?
As this drama was unfolding and the clock was ticking, I was constantly studying the progress of the other lines. Should I switch? Should I cut my losses and start over?
Finally, free of the Federal agents, I bolted for the gate. Past the bookstore. Past the restaurants. Arriving breathlessly at Gate 84, whose agents were miraculously expecting me, handing me my seat assignment, so I could plop into seat 6D, the last seat in First Class, and the last empty seat on the entire plane. This Debrief in Auckland must be important!
Maybe Honolulu has a good bookstore…